Jack Causa

Virtual Interviews for Real World Jobs

Seven dynamite tips for acing your next virtual interview.

September 18, 2008
Sponsored by The Mergis Group

by Jack Causa, senior vice president and group executive, The Mergis Group

The use of virtual interviews — in which a job candidate is interviewed via Web-based video conferencing, not in person — is surging in popularity. Web-based video interviews of job candidates can either supplement or largely replace in-person interviews. This strategy may be used by hiring managers as part of their initial screening process in the first two rounds of interviews or — in cases where geography is a challenge — it may even be used throughout the entire process until a preferred candidate is invited to meet with their prospective new boss.

Employers tend to embrace virtual interviews because they bring previously unrealized levels of efficiency to the process. First of all, the evaluation bar is fair and fixed as all candidates can be asked the same set of questions, then hiring managers can replay/review/rate the interviews online for comparisons of the candidates without having to consult their notes and jog their memories. Second, video interviewing saves significant time and hiring expenses because there are reduced travel costs and management time that must be invested in the recruitment and selection process.

But how can virtual interviews help you? Well, aside from the convenience of not having to make a personal visit to every single prospective employer who calls you for a courtesy interview, the individuals who understand virtual interviews and prepare them properly can have a big advantage over the competition for that prized new job. Here are seven dynamite tips for virtual interviews:

  1. Dress for the Occasion.
    It's best to wear neutral, solid colors (shades of black, blue or grey are best) because these colors look the best on video and don't create any distractions for your interviewer. Also, try to stay away from colors that match your skin and hair tones, plaids and stripes that look overly busy on video and women in particular should leave the glittery jewelry off-camera.
  2. Be Ready Early.
    It's a good idea to arrive to the video conference location — or your own Webcam-equipped PC — at least 15 minutes before the scheduled interview time, so you can relax and become familiar with your surroundings. This is especially important if you are doing the virtual interview from a video conference room that you have never seen before and may have sound or sight nuances that you donít want to become a problem during the interview.
  3. Make Friends With the Technology.
    If you are doing the virtual interview by yourself, review all of the instructions for how to operate the Webcam properly and make a quick phone call to the prospective employer's technical staff to smooth out any glitches. If you are using a facility, chat with the onsite technology person to make sure everything seems to be ready to roll.
  4. Be Aware of Surroundings.
    As the interview begins and the dialog takes off, try not to move around too much and do your best to just act natural. Noises that you may not notice in a personal interview can be very distracting in a virtual interview due to the highly sensitive microphones that are used, so avoid tapping on a desk, shuffling papers, shifting around in your chair, etc.
  5. Look at the Camera.
    This may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how many candidates lose sight of how important this is and soon begin staring down at the table, their desk, out the window, etc. Eye contact is crucial in personal interviews, but it's even more important in virtual interviews because the only visual impression the interviewer has of you is the one that is picked up in the immediate space around your face.
  6. Watch Out for the Delay.
    With all but the very best Web-based interview connections, there is a slight transmission delay when using the video functionality. It's important to be aware of this delay and to pause frequently for others to jump in and comment, as well as to always wait for your interviewer to finish speaking before you speak.
  7. At the End.
    When the interview is over, thank the employer for their time and let them know that you look forward to introducing yourself in person at the appropriate time. Then make sure to hit the mute button before you begin to collect your things and leave the room.

Remember that a virtual interview is still a real interview, even if it's high-tech and a little impersonal. The way that you present yourself and answer the questions will be evaluated just like they would if you had been sitting across the desk from the interviewer. By taking advantage of these tips, you can be better prepared and more impressive than other candidates who are called to the camera.

Jack Causa, CPA, is Senior Vice President and Group Executive at The Mergis Group. Causa is responsible for the management and operations of The Mergis Group, a division of Spherion that provides specialty professional recruiting and placement services across a range of professional disciplines, including finance and accounting, information technology, engineering, sales and marketing, legal and human resources. Causa has more than 25 years of experience in the professional recruiting industry and joins Spherion from Callaway Partners, a professional services firm, where he served as the partner responsible for the company's staff augmentation business. Prior to that position, Causa held leadership roles at Jefferson Wells, where he was a managing director and Kforce, where he was president of finance and accounting. He began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers.